Getting back to the essence of cacao is Oded Brenner’s mission in his new “lab,” Blue Stripes Cacao Shop in Union Square, NYC. The former owner of the international chocolate emporium, Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man, is back in his old neighborhood with a smaller but no less dynamic cafe.
After a court issued order that prevented Brenner from conducting any chocolate business for five years, this unstoppable explorer and serial entrepreneur has returned to tempt chocolate lovers with treats that are rooted in exploring the full potential of the cacao fruit. His comeback follows a lengthy and financially devastating lawsuit with Israeli food and beverage giant, Strauss, who claimed a breach of contract after Brenner opened numerous coffee shops in NYC called Little Brown. According to the Times of Israel, 11 years later Brenner signed a non-compete agreement with Strauss that prevented him from working in the chocolate world for five years.
In June, this unstoppable explorer and serial entrepreneur has returned to tempt chocolate lovers with treats that are rooted in exploring the full potential of the cacao fruit. Blue Stripes uses pure cacao pulp in energy shakes with ginger and coconut milk blended into light, thirst quenching drinks that allow the ingredients to shine. The cacao pulp tastes vaguely tropical and is being explored here in ways that few (if any) other chocolate shops do. Take the cacao fruit super bowl, topped with house-made granola, pure chocolate nibs, and a drizzle of honey.
Visitors can expect the unexpected here as “Chocolate Clouds” are pulled from a tap (think beer) that whips pure chocolate into frothy chilled drinks with options like Molten Milk and Nutella Foam. Watch and inhale deeply as raw chocolate is ground to order and stirred into simmering sweet milk for steaming hot or iced cocoa.
Be assured that there are none of the Willy Wonka inspired elements of Brenner’s previous chocolate emporium. Simplicity reigns here, where tidy displays of strawberry pink Krembo and swirled Nutella buns fill the cafe with irresistible scents of chocolate, caramel, and espresso. And if you are craving chocolate for breakfast? Yeah, they will provide that, too: chocolate oatmeal laced with almond butter, pancake bites with strawberries and chocolate nibs, and a cone pizza — a brioche-like wrap oozing with chocolate — are just some of the sweet morning options.
Brenner’s reflective state is expressed in snippets of text throughout the walls of the cafe. These messages are meant for his daughter, Tito, who was 4 when he stepped away from his world famous Max Brenner shops. Messages to Tito are intertwined throughout surrealistic scenes of children playing in forests and oceans as dinosaurs and chocolate capped kids populate the landscape. Not to mention trendy, playful offerings like the decadent “Cake and Shake” pierced by a straw from which to slurp a matching milkshake of hazelnut cream.
Chocolate traditionalists will not be disappointed here, but I would recommend trying some of the more unusual menu offerings you may not be able to try elsewhere.
“I want Blue Stripes to be a profound, no boundaries, chocolate experience in ways you never knew existed,” Brenner says. “It’s the only place in the world where every aspect of cacao is explored and tasted. You can experience the wild, the sensual, the indulgent, the unfamiliar, the romantic and the classic all in a single visit.”
Blue Stripes Cacao Shop is located at 28 East 13th Street, NYC.